Italy: Modern slavery conditions found in farms producing for international supermarkets

Author: Tobias Jones & Ayo Awokoya, The Guardian, Published on: 24 June 2019

"Are your tinned tomatoes picked by slave labour?" 20 June 2019

In the Italian south, the lives of foreign agricultural labourers are so cheap that many NGOs have described their conditions as a modern form of slavery. They live in isolated rural ruins or shanty towns. Some have Italian residency permits, but many don’t. A few have work contracts, although union organisers often find they are fake…

...The largest migrant reception centres are almost all in the south...where mafia organisations exert greatest control and where agriculture requires a constant supply of labour. That supply is organised by gangmasters: agents who recruit seasonal workers...

...Migrants usually arrive in Italy with nothing but debts…Many of the labourers…say gangmasters regularly withhold their identity documents and pay…Many migrants have reported being beaten by employers, who also make sexual demands. Violence, especially against women, is…common...

...Although piecework in agriculture is illegal, that is how all labourers are paid…it is hard to make much more than €30 a day…

A system of certification for...supermarkets...has also failed to eradicate the practice...for decades, organised crime and discount supermarkets have forced down the price of raw products, reducing payment along the food supply chain...

“This isn’t a comfortable message for supermarkets”, says Rachel Wilshaw, ethical trade manager at Oxfam, “but in squeezing their suppliers so hard commercially that they can only make a profit by exploiting workers, supermarkets themselves are driving the conditions that can result in modern slavery in their supply chain.”

 …it’s...apparent that someone…is making huge profits. Although farmers were paid 7.5 cents per kg for their tomatoes last year, the consumer was charged, roughly, €2 per kg for them...a price increase of 2,567%.

Cirio, which is owned by Conserve Italia, told the Guardian: “[We] would like to assure all … consumers that it will continue to process tomatoes supplied by its 14,000 cooperators through the collaboration of its 3,000 employees in complete respect of ethical principles and environmental sustainability.”

 San Benedetto… says it is too busy to comment.

Only Fanta, which is owned by Coca-Cola, offers a complete list of all its suppliers and transporters. Since 2012, Fanta has stopped sourcing its oranges in Calabria.

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Related companies: Cirio Coca-Cola